Yes, minister -- getting to grips with pint-sized teacher's pet
HE'S the teacher's pet of the future. And pint-sized robot Nao -- meaning 'obedient' in Japanese -- can even be programmed to act as a special needs assistant.
He was a firm favourite with both teachers and schoolchildren alike at the Science Gallery in Dublin yesterday, where technology giant Intel was unveiling its designs of the future.
European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton took time out from the government's referendum campaign to attend the two-day event -- and she too seemed particularly taken with the mini robot.
The €7,800 robot created by Aldebaran Robotics -- a company in the Intel portfolio -- grasped Ms Creighton's hand as she guided it through the throngs of excited schoolboys.
And it was easy to see which of the inventions on display proved most popular with the boys.
"Probably the robot and this laptop that has the audio of Dr Dre beats -- the best headphones in the world," Calvin McDonnell (11), a fifth-class pupil at Fionnbarra Naofa BNS in Cabra West, replied when asked for his favourites.
Earlier, the wannabe games designer had wowed onlookers himself when he told Dublin City of Science Ambassador Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain about the complicated equation carved by mathemathician William Rowan Hamilton into a bridge along the Royal Canal after a flash of inspiration in 1843.
"That equation governs all of the pictures moving on the computer screens and on the sat nav," Ms Ni Shuilleabhain pointed out.
"He didn't know that it was going to be used for that ages ago. One equation allows you to do all that."
She encouraged children to pay attention in maths class.
Ms Creighton said Intel had put Ireland on the map as one of the leaders in technology and had not held back on politely pointing out to the Government a "few home truths". She said the cutting-edge company was well-placed to talk about the future skill needs, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of graduates.
Mike Gendimenico, technical marketing engineer with Intel, cradled Nao carefully as he revealed the robot was programmed to work 'autonomously' to follow voice commands, recognise objects, stand and walk on his own two feet.
He said the difficulties of creating a 'bi-ped' robot that could walk on two feet meant some had price tags of close to $1m.
Some of the other technologies at the exhibit included reality demonstrations where users can drive their own formula one racing car or dive into surfing using 3D technology.